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Can young children be depressed?

Yes – much research has been done on childhood depression in the last ten years and there is increasing agreement that depression can affect children as young as two.

For many it makes sense, adults with depression often say they have felt this way for as long as they can remember. Many causes of depression are thought to have roots in early childhood.


Depression can be hard to spot in young children

We know what the symptoms of adult depression are but what about in young children?

Children experience a daily rollercoaster of emotions such as excitement, disappointment and frustration. A lack of communication skills, tiredness or simply being overwhelmed can mean that young children’s behaviour is frequently up and down. Depression is different to ‘normal’ sadness, it is a serious illness that benefits tremendously from professional help.


Common signs of depression in young children:

  • Not enjoying play very much – apathy towards previously favourite items
  • Difficulties socialising, clinginess or becoming socially withdrawn
  • Often being sad and crying
  • Dramatic mood swings, angry or hysterical outbursts over small things
  • Regressing back to a younger age, for instance toilet training
  • Disagreeable and defiant for much of the time
  • Complaining of physical aches and pains
  • Whining and unhappy a great deal
  • Orchestrating scenarios around violence or death

Happy children can display some of these signs at times, after all part of growing up is to push boundaries and experiencing a wide range of emotions is perfectly normal.

Knowing if your young child is depressed can be really hard – in our experience parent’s instinct is more often than not correct.


Early diagnosis is key

If you think your child is struggling emotionally then we would urge you to speak to a professional. Seeking help early can be key.

Research has shown that early accessing treatment early can really improve a child’s chances of not experiencing further problems later on in life, with early intervention and the right treatment your child can recover and go on to lead a happy, fulfilling life.


What should I do?

If you have noticed your child is experiencing some of the symptoms of depression listed above for two weeks or more, in different settings and with different people then it might be helpful to speak to a professional.

You can have an informal, free chat with one of our qualified clinical advisors to discuss your options. Call now on 020 3761 7026.

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